Why Does the U.K. Give Israel Unqualified Backing?

The two key reasons are the need for Whitehall to demonstrate British subservience and usefulness to the US, and the power of the Israel lobby, writes Declassified’s editor Mark Curtis.

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Oct. 19, 2023. (Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street, CC BY 2.0)

By Mark Curtis
Declassified U.K.

Rishi Sunak’s government has shown extraordinary levels of backing for Israeli military operations in Gaza over the past six weeks. As the Palestinian death toll has mounted, neither Sunak nor any other minister has condemned Israel for any of its policies. 

Rather, ministers have explicitly supported Israel’s illegal collective punishment of Gaza and its evacuation order to over a million people in the north of the territory. This was, it turns out, the precursor for attacks further down the Gaza Strip.

Throughout the atrocities, British ministers have stuck to a patently absurd line claiming Israel’s “right to self-defence” as it destroys whole residential districts and as Israel’s own ministers use overtly genocidal language.

U.K. Conservative and Labour officials have been lining up to “stand by Israel” but almost none even dare to say they “stand with Palestine”. 

What explains the British political elite’s categorical support for Israel as it violates international law, kills thousands of civilians and is accused of “crimes against humanity” and preparing “a genocide in the making”? Two key reasons.

Special Relationship

Britain has enabled arms shipments to Israel by allowing the US military to use its Cyprus airbase, RAF Akrotiri. (Photo:Declassified U.K.) 

The first is the need for Whitehall to demonstrate subservience to Washington and specifically its role as America’s key military ally. 

The U.S. plies Israel with billions in military aid and acts as its chief global defender. Whitehall shapes its foreign policy largely around acting as the U.S. lieutenant – or lapdog. Going up against Washington over Israel would be seen in Whitehall as impossible while maintaining this relationship.

The U.S. has delivered dozens of cargo flights full of military equipment to Israel during its bombardment of Gaza. As we at Declassified have revealed, Britain has enabled much of this movement of arms by allowing the US military to use its vast air base on Cyprus, RAF Akrotiri. 

Former U.K. defence secretary Michael Portillo has said Labour leader Keir Starmer has done “exactly the right thing” to oppose a Gaza ceasefire “because the United States would want to know whether a Labour government was going to deviate from the alliance with the United States”.

That lack of deviation was on show when defence secretary Grant Shapps visited Washington in late October to meet his U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin. A readout of the meeting said, “our two countries have led the response to prevent escalation in the Middle East, and support Israel’s right to defend itself.” 

The U.K. needs to be seen as Washington’s most dependable ally. A week into Israel’s bombing campaign defence minister James Heappey visited the U.S. “to reaffirm the U.K.’s deep defence and security relationship with the U.S.” 

The U.K.’s military relationship with the U.S. is “uniquely close”, he added, “and the sight of British and American aircraft landing on a British aircraft carrier stationed off America’s coastline is the perfect demonstration of the depth of that alliance.”

Nato also plays a key disciplining role at these times. Other European countries’ deference to the U.S. is likely the major reason they haven’t publicly supported the Palestinians in the face of Israel’s onslaught. 

It is no surprise that it has been French president Emmanuel Macron – whose country is less enamoured with US military “leadership” than others in Europe – who has been the most prominent Western leader criticising (within limits) Israel’s bombing.

‘Keep Us in Line’

U.K. deference to Washington over Israel is shown in declassified files. In 1970, Percy Cradock, of Foreign and Commonwealth Office planning staff, wrote of “the need for association with the United States over Middle East issues”. 

He added: “We cannot afford to distance ourselves too far from the United States position without risk of injury to the general Anglo-U.S. relationship”. 

This was the case even though Cradock recognised that U.K. commercial interests – then as now – were much greater in the Arab world than in Israel.

Also in 1970, the Foreign Office Planning Committee put it in even stronger terms. It noted that the U.K. should not adopt an overtly pro-Arab position in the Arab-Israel conflict. 

This was “because of the pressure which the United States government undoubtedly exert on HMG to keep us in line in any public pronouncements or negotiations on the dispute”.

The U.K. is a much weaker power in the Middle East than it was 50 years ago. For British planners, steeped in centuries of ruling the world by force and still determined to uphold their global power status at all costs, an obsequious dependency on Washington is now even more important. 

The Israel Lobby

Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) paid for James Cleverly (above) and Suella Braverman – until recently the foreign and home secretaries – to Israel in August 2015. (Photo: Twitter)

The second reason is the Israel lobby, which is inordinately strong in the U.K., with both main political parties embedded in pro-Israel parliamentary groups. 

Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) has claimed 80 percent of Conservative MPs are members. Declassified has found that the group has funded over a third of the current British cabinet.

OpenDemocracy previously revealed that CFI is the biggest donor of free overseas trips to MPs of any organisation.

CFI often takes MPs on paid-for trips to Israel early in their careers, to cultivate the British political establishment into a pro-Israel position. It paid, for example, £4000 ($3200) to take James Cleverly and Suella Braverman – until recently the foreign and home secretaries – to Israel in August 2015. 

Cleverly said in a video during his 2015 trip that was posted by the CFI: “It’s been a real eye-opener. Israel is an amazing country, there’s no doubt about that.” He added: “Definitely recommend you come and visit.”

Cleverly has consistently backed Israel’s bombing of Gaza throughout its mass killing of civilians, including its collective punishment of Palestinians, involving halting water, electricity and food from going into the Gaza Strip. 

Then there is Labour. Declassified has found that two-fifths of Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet have been funded by pro-Israel lobbyists Labour Friends of Israel and pro-Israel funder Sir Trevor Chinn.

Labour Friends of Israel does not disclose its funders, even as over 75 Labour MPs and over 30 members of the House of Lords are members. 

A 2017 undercover documentary by Al-Jazeera showed LFI is close to the Israeli embassy in London. In one piece of undercover footage taken at the Labour conference in 2016, then LFI chairperson and Labour MP Joan Ryan is seen talking to Shai Masot, an Israeli diplomat from the embassy. She asks him, “What happened with the names we put into the [Israeli] embassy, Shai?” Masot replies:

“Just now we’ve got the money, it’s more than one million pounds, it’s a lot of money.” 

In another conversation, this time filmed outside a London pub, Michael Rubin, then parliamentary officer for LFI, admits that LFI and the Israeli embassy “work really closely together, but a lot of it is behind the scenes”. 

He adds that “the [Israeli] embassy helps us quite a lot. When bad stories come out about Israel, the embassy sends us information so that we can counter it.”

The known extent of the Israel lobby’s funding of MPs dwarfs that of any other foreign power though funding from the dictatorships of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain is also significant. 

Russia’s influence in the U.K. appears small in comparison, which presumably explains why there have been parliamentary probes into Russia’s influence but not Israel’s.

Other Reasons

GCHQ’s ‘doughnut’ building in Cheltenham, west England. (U.K. Ministry of Defence, Wikimedia Commons)

There are other reasons in the mix as to why the U.K. elite is so strong in its backing of Israel at the expense of Palestinians. 

Far from Israel being seen as a rogue state by the U.K., Whitehall sees it as a strategic partner. Israel is a significant buyer of U.K. arms, acquiring over £470m worth in the past eight years. 

Israel also acts, at least sometimes, as a significant intelligence partner to Britain. For example, documents revealed by US whistleblower Edward Snowden show that Britain’s signals intelligence agency, GCHQ, fed the Israelis selected communications data it collected in 2009, during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza that left nearly 1400 people dead.

The U.K. military also gains from Israel by collaborating with it across all three military services. Military chiefs of the two states signed a cooperation agreement in 2020 “to formalise and enhance our defence relationship, and support the growing Israel-U.K. partnership”, according to the Israeli military.

What is in that agreement is secret and the U.K. government has refused to publish it. 

But Israel lobby group Bicom (the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre) has written that the two militaries are “integrating their multi-domain capabilities in maritime, land, air, space, and cyber and electromagnetic”.

Strategic asset?

Does Israel act as a strategic asset for the U.K. in the Middle East? Israel’s military regularly bombs official Western enemies such as Syria with no international repercussions at all. Maybe Israel will be the West’s attack dog for strikes on Iran, ostensibly to stop its nuclear programme.

The U.K. continues to help Israel internationally by pretending it doesn’t possess nuclear arms – weapons the U.K. helped Israel acquire from the 1950s onwards. 

One of Britain’s long standing priorities in the Middle East has been to keep the Arab world divided so as to exercise control over it better. 

British official T.E. Lawrence – so-called “Lawrence of Arabia” – wrote in an intelligence memo during the Arab revolt against the Turkish Ottoman empire in 1916 that the Arabs should be kept “in a state of political mosaic, a tissue of small jealous principalities incapable of cohesion.”

In Arabia, Lawrence noted, the U.K. should create “a ring of client states” to keep the Muslim world divided. These concerns long outlasted the Arab revolt as Britain and the U.S. were confronted in the post-second war world with Arab nationalist movements – their principal threat to control of the oil-rich Middle East.

All U.K. governments say they support “stability” in the Middle East, but at the same time regularly go to war. Conflicts are by no means obstructive to the U.K. promoting its core aims. 

In 2023, unlike in previous decades, none of Britain’s Arab allies are prepared to come to the aid of the Palestinians in Gaza, so the U.K. can back Israel in slaughtering them with little fear of reprisal.

One thing is clear. The Palestinians are no strategic asset to Whitehall. In contrast to Israel, they offer nothing to the British political elite. They are not geopolitical assets. They are simply human beings and therefore irrelevant to U.K. planners.

Mark Curtis is an author and editor of Declassified U.K., an investigative journalism organisation that covers Britain’s foreign, military and intelligence policies. He tweets at @markcurtis30. Follow Declassified on twitter at @declassifiedUK

This is an edited extract from Mark Curtis’ book, Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam.

This article is from Declassified U.K..

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

27 comments for “Why Does the U.K. Give Israel Unqualified Backing?

  1. CaseyG
    November 29, 2023 at 11:19

    Considering that the U.S and the UK seem intent on either running the world—or ruining it. I just sit and wonder— a big WHY to either awful outcome. WAR depletes everything on the planet—haven’t any of the so called leaders figured this out yet?

  2. hp
    November 28, 2023 at 14:17

    I can name that tune in five words.
    An – offer – they – can’t – refuse.
    With a pinch of lol.

  3. Paula
    November 28, 2023 at 01:55

    After cutting their nose off to spite their face, they need a cheap source of energy. Biden made sure they can’t renege by blowing up Nordstream. God forbid the Palestinians gain in the riches lying off their own shores. Bloody UK/EU still the colonial imperialist thugs ever been. They make a mistake and someone else pays. Murder thousands of people to get at cheap gas. Their leaders need to be wiped off the face of the earth and take Israel with them.

  4. Will Durant
    November 27, 2023 at 20:26

    If I were a Brit, I’d be deeply humiliated and ashamed that my country’s role is subservient b___h to both the U.S. A and racist, apartheid Israel. As an American, perhaps I can share my shame of my country with you and encourage Brits to stand up proudly against the Imperium and the Zionists in the person of rich bastards and shameless fellatants like Sunak and Starmer. UK: beautiful country with wonderful people (like the U.S.), but hamstrung by the usual sleazy, corrupt and deeply compromised political class.

  5. November 27, 2023 at 16:07

    Israel has so far Killed 13,500 Palestinians; including 6,000 Children, in revenge for the 1,200
    Israelis killed by Hamas on October 7th. The last time a Regime Killed 6,000 Children as a National
    Policy; was American supported Pol Pot in the Cambodian “Killing Fields”.

    • JonnyJames
      November 28, 2023 at 13:29

      Far more children were slaughtered by the US during the war on SE Asia. The US/UK are also directly responsible for the slaughter of Palestinians.

  6. Mike
    November 27, 2023 at 14:34

    I think it’s a lot to expect that Britain is anything more that a moral-compass-free zone, especially when it comes to its government. Britain has a long history of believing in its superiority as aa race and has been more than happy to enslave people around the World and treat their land as their own. Have they ever really disavowed this? They chose to attach their lips to America’s butt as it pursued a newer form of colonialism – which looks a lot like Britains’s older form – where the rules-based elite make the rules that allow their corporations to exploit the resources of these pseudo-colonies. They manipulate these puedo-colonial governments to make it easier for exploitation without actually posting troops to keep these pseudo-colonies under control. This is like Britain’s older colonial form in the sense that it was corporations and their own militaries, under the protection of the British crown, colonized and exploited countries often using their own corporate armies. i.e the older form was corporations in charge.

    Why would we ever expect such a moral decrepit country to fall on the right side of history or even be willing to follow the UN Charter. And they are America’s weak little poodle. They just want to be its favorite. Pathetic!

  7. JonnyJames
    November 27, 2023 at 14:27

    Excellent article. It’s not just the bad ol’ yanks that are behind the unconditional support for Israel. As we see, this goes back to TE Lawrence, the Mandate and the creation of the Zionist state from the beginning and continues.

    Despite the overwhelmingly one-sided, pro-Israel MassMediaCartel reports and outright lies, more and more of the UK and US public can see through the cloud of miasma.

    US folks are going to question sending more billions of “public” funds to Israel while they have no health care, are mired in debt, and see their average life expectancy continue to decline and infrastructure crumble.

    Sadly, Palestine will have to endure more atrocities and massacres until the Anglo-Saxons and vassals can no longer support Israel. But the US and Israel seem willing to use a “Samson Option” if they don’t get their way. As always, let’s hope more rational heads prevail.

  8. John Manning
    November 27, 2023 at 13:36

    Britain started the Israel project in Palestine. To admit fault now would create too many questions about Palestine and other colonies.
    Nothing will change until Britain (and the USA) regulate the practice of Jewish organisations buying their government of choice in these countries.

  9. James P McFadden
    November 27, 2023 at 13:00

    A third reason for the unquestioned British support for Israel is that their ruling elite are still motivated by the racist Orientalism that has evolved over centuries as outlined by Edward Said in “Orientalism”. This racist ideology is used to justify the settler-colonial mindset (which is hinted at by the racist quote from Orientalist T.E. Lawrence). Any deviation from this monstrous Western Orientalism, that defines the Muslim and Arab as “the Other” whose role is to be dominated by the West, would cast shame on all the colonial projects of the British empire which murdered tens of millions, subjugated all they colonized with violence, pillaged their colonies for corporate profit, and justified their domination as a natural results of their white supremacist culture and inherent Western superiority.

  10. lester
    November 27, 2023 at 12:29

    Do Christian Zionists and Dispensationalists have any political clout in the UK? They have quite a lot in the ISA/ Dispensationalism WAS invented in the UK.

  11. Rudy Haugeneder
    November 27, 2023 at 11:36

    The Wahabi rule of Arab oil monarchies show how easily Muslims are manipulated, as the following statement in this report shows: “In 2023, unlike in previous decades, none of Britain’s Arab allies are prepared to come to the aid of the Palestinians in Gaza, so the U.K. can back Israel in slaughtering them with little fear of reprisal.”

  12. kathleen
    November 27, 2023 at 11:13

    In the US at least, Zionists are in many positions of power; the Senate Majority Leader and the Secretary of State for instance. I cannot but think this has an affect on policy. I do not know if there is a similar dynamic at play in the UK.

  13. Annie MCSTRAVICK
    November 27, 2023 at 11:10

    The key to Britain’s foreign policy is very simple. It was explained in words of one syllable to Christopher Meyer, prime minister Blair’s new ambassador to Washington in 1997, by Jonathan Powell, Blair’s Chief of Staff. On his appointment, as Meyer recounted to Blair’s biographer*, Powell gave him the following advice: “Your job is to get up the arse of the White House and stay there.”

    * Anthony Seldon, “Blair”, London 2004, page 370

  14. Julia
    November 27, 2023 at 11:03

    Shockingly, this from Kemi Badenoch the UK Business and Trade Secretary in an interview with Sky News today:

    “she went further than some other ministers have gone in defending Israel over its conduct in the war against Hamas. She said as far as she was aware, Israel had not broken international law. She went on:

    It looks like they have taken great pains to make sure we are staying within the confines of the law. We applaud them for that.”

    I don’t know if that ‘we’ in the penultimate sentence is a typo, but perhaps revealing…. Words just about fail me.

    • Selina Sweet
      November 27, 2023 at 13:31

      Wow! Who needs an MMPI to determine the psychopaths and sociopaths? They all are declaring themselves! You have to be to assert these fantasies in the face of video and eyewitness facts all of us witness to their contrary actuality. How and why do such emotional bents gain prominent positions?

  15. Eddie S
    November 27, 2023 at 11:02

    Sadly, this article sounds-like a WAY more accurate analysis/explanation than the ‘Pravda’ version we get from the MSM, where any deviation from the std party line gets you branded an anti-semite. (It’s ‘interesting’ that a person can criticize the Iranian/Syrian/Saudi/etc governments all-day with real or false accusations without necessarily being branded an Islamaphobe, but that logic evaporates when Israel is involved. It’s a nice scam for them while it lasts. At least the UN hasn’t yet been entirely co-opted by the US and votes against this hypocrisy.)

  16. Piotr Berman
    November 27, 2023 at 10:52

    “It paid, for example, £4000 ($3200) to take James Cleverly”, it is always tricky when you should multiply by the exchange rate and when to divide. £4000 is $5000, so Cleverly did not had to suffer indignities like flying economy class, staying in cheap hotels, eating street food, using public transit etc.

  17. Guy Jefferson
    November 27, 2023 at 10:11

    The UK has always been on the ‘wrong side of history’, covered by massive applications of BS.

    There have been three major revolutions for peace, justice, dignity and equality. The UK has strongly opposed each. The UK was the active military fighter against both the American and French Revolutions. Thus, when people cried for “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”, the UK said “hell No!”, and sent troops, warships and mercenaries to fight against this in an 8 year long war. When people cried for “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, the UK said “hell No!” and fought wars for nearly two decades to put a royal fanny back in charge of France.

    The UK also opposed the Russian Revolution. They had boots on the ground trying to make sure that “Peace, Bread, Land” did not become a popular cry, although they left much of the fighting to the Germans, the Poles, the Ukranians, and the White Russians.

    The UK has for centuries opposed democracy and freedom, declaring instead the divine right of elites to rule over us all. They create rigged political systems, and rigged courts, to make sure there is always a royal fanny in the palace and to make sure there is a government of the elites, by the elites and for the elites. The UK, and the world that revolves around it, is still strongly ‘class’ based, even if they’ve had to make modifications over the centuries. They despise equality.

    Truly understanding UK history, which means getting beyond the mass of English-language propaganda which obscures it, leaves one with no surprise at all at the UK once again giving unqualified support for genocide. Those people could carve “Genocide R Us” into the royal scepter held by King Chucky the Last.

  18. Robert
    November 27, 2023 at 09:47

    The current war is bringing to the surface the tremendous effect of Israeli money on the political class in both the United States and England. I was aware of it but even as a regular reader of sites like CN I did not realize how large and powerful the Israel lobbying effort was. I was sometimes perplexed by a politicians strong comments about fealty to Israel but never delved deeply into the reason. This was especially true for almost every Presidential candidate in my lifetime.

    As is usually the case with politics/politicians in “Democratic” countries, one should simply Follow The Money. It works every time. The only chance to reverse this course is via the strength of the BRICS and that does seem to be unstoppable. The quicker we have a multi polar world, the better off the world will be.

  19. Paul Citro
    November 27, 2023 at 08:18

    The UK is earning its name: Airstrip One.

    • lester
      November 27, 2023 at 12:32

      Perfidious Albion?

    November 27, 2023 at 08:06

    This is misdirection. The party of Venice/City of London runs the US.

    • Paula
      November 28, 2023 at 07:14

      Indeed and the rest of the world as well. See Silent Coup by Matt Kennard, also A History of Central Banking and the Enslavment of Mankind by Stephen Mitford Goodson who also wrote Inside the South African Reserve Bank: It’s Origins and Secrets Exposed. Of course he was assassinated for the last one.

  21. Francis Lee
    November 27, 2023 at 08:01

    Hardly anything new other than when the British – Labour Party – pulled out of Palestine in 1947. At the present time the so-called ‘Labour Friends of Israel’ are carrying out their usual paid-for function by their Zionist paymasters. The same can be said of the Tories – more catholic than the Pope. It should be understood that there is no functioning democratic polity or system in the UK. Moreover we might go further and assert that the whole absence of a functioning opposition is only an ‘opposition’ in absentia. One gets cynicism with age.

    • Piotr Berman
      November 27, 2023 at 11:03

      After the purge of Corbynists from Labour, the role of this party is to take over in an eventuality that Tories screw so badly with scandals and ineptitude that the same course has to be carried by someone else. And then, if Labour experiences its own scandals etc., Tories can return.

      It still does not answer the question why the British uni-party establishment is so slavishly following USA. After all, UK is important enough that some deviations would surely be tolerated. It seems almost like a masochist instinct.

    • Guy Jefferson
      November 27, 2023 at 12:47

      English Democracy is always an oxymoron.

      Even when the English Elites had to grant ‘liberty’ after a revolution, they kept a rigid class based system where the elites stay in control. They’ve modified it as required, but its still there. And, if it gets out of hand, the elites have a history of sending in the troops without much compunction about it. That threat was used against Corbyn, as, IIRC, a group of generals came out and said that a Corbyn government would need to be overthrown. It apparently worked, given Jeremy’s current attitude of total subservience.

      Its a rigged game, where the elites always stay in charge. And the Americans copied it for their system. The whole bit about first-past-the-post districts in gerrymandered districts helps to disenfranchise large numbers of people, and makes the system highly vulnerable to manipulation in favor of the elites.

      If you doubt that, consider that in America, if the Greens have 5% support, shouldn’t they have 20 seats in Congress and 5 Senators? How about the 25 votes in the Electoral College that represents? And be in contention for a Supreme Court Justice, as 1 in 9 is only 11%. Isn’t that what democracy would look like? Instead, they are always a part of the 49% that is disenfranchised, and their vote is always deemed ‘wasted’.

      Yes, a lifetime in America has also made me very cynical behind my gray beard.

Comments are closed.